Inbee Park is out to win the first three majors in a season.
Korean Inbee Park has the opportunity this week to do what only one player in LPGA history has accomplished – win the first three majors in a season.
Babe Zaharias is currently the only LPGA player to accomplish the feat, having won all three majors in 1950 (the Titleholders Championship, Women’s Western Open and U.S. Women’s Open). But after winning the Kraft Nabisco Championship in April and the Wegmans LPGA Championship earlier this month, Park will try to become the first LPGA player in the modern era to capture three straight major titles to begin a season when she tees it up at the Sebonack Golf Club on Thursday.
“This is the best I'm playing in my career so far,” Park said. “I'm trying to keep this going.”
The LPGA hits the midpoint of its season this week at the U.S. Women’s Open conducted by the USGA and it has already been quite a year for Park in 2013. A win this week would be just the latest amazing feat for the 24-year-old South Korean. She has five victories so far this year, including two major titles. She took over the No. 1 spot in the Rolex Rankings from American Stacy Lewis following her victory at the Kraft Nabisco Championship in early April. Park’s impressive play, however, extends back to last season as she’s won seven times in her last 23 LPGA starts and has eight additional top-10 appearances over that span.
Park’s dominance of the LPGA Tour in recent months has drawn comparisons to Yani Tseng’s impressive stretch during the 2010 and 2011 seasons. It has also been asked whether Park could be on track to replicate the success of players like Annika Sorenstam and Lorena Ochoa, who were formidable presences atop the women’s game for years at a time.
“I really admire them, where they were positioned, how they handled that kind of pressure,” Park said. “I think they've done such a great job of handling that pressure and playing under the pressure. I think it's something that's very good.
“I'm trying to do that,” she added of replicating the success of Sorenstam and Ochoa. “It's not the easiest thing. I've got to do a lot of things on the golf course, off the golf course that is a bit different to things that I've done before. A lot more pressure is on me, but this is somewhere that I've always wanted to come. Yeah, I'm trying to enjoy where I am and trying to keep this going as long as I can.”
Park, who won the 2008 U.S. Women’s Open at the age of 19, will try for not only her third straight major title this week but also her third straight victory as well. She has won the last two tournaments on the LPGA Tour, the Wegmans LPGA Championship and the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship. Only one player in LPGA history has captured the U.S. Women’s Open after having won the previous two events on the schedule. That player was Mickey Wright in 1964.
“It's frustrating for the rest of us, that's for sure,” Lewis said of Park’s recent dominance on the LPGA Tour. “I know people like to see somebody make history and do all of that, but for players it's frustrating to see someone sit there and win week after week after week. But she's making good putts and she's steady. Every time I feel like she may have an okay round and then the next day she's up there on the leaderboard again.
“She's just always there, always giving herself a chance, and nothing really seemed to faze her. That's the big thing. She just makes putt after putt after putt, and she's there at the end of the day.”
The last player to win three consecutive tournaments on the LPGA Tour was Lorena Ochoa, who won four-in-a-row in 2008. LPGA and World Golf Halls of Fame member Nancy Lopez holds the LPGA record with five consecutive victories in tournaments participated in 1978. Annika Sorenstam also accomplished the feat across two season in 2004-05.
Park put herself is esteemed company with a victory at the Wegmans LPGA Championship, becoming just the seventh player in LPGA history to win the first two majors of the season. She joined Zaharias, Patty Berg, Mickey Wright, Sandra Haynie, Pat Bradley and Annika Sorenstam in the accomplishment.
Park, who is set to turn 25 on July 12, has an opportunity to become the youngest LPGA player to complete the Career Grand Slam with a victory at the RICOH Women’s British Open or the Evian Championship – the LPGA’s newly minted fifth major – later this summer.